It’s time to say goodbye to Shohoku and that b-balling phenom, Sakuragi, in this final volume of Slam Dunk.
Few stories have crept into my heart like Slam Dunk—I admit—I was one of the many who refused to pick this manga up due to my indifference towards the sport of basketball. If it wasn’t for wise manga-man, Mike Montesa, the editor of Slam Dunk and my supervisor during my internship at VIZ, I would’ve lived my life never knowing the joys and triumphs of a fictional Japanese high school basketball team.
Those who, like myself, get over the sports manga stigma, begin an incredible journey throughout Slam Dunk’s 31 volumes. Witnessing not only the evolution of Shohoku and the characters who fill Slam Dunk’s pages, but also Inoue’s ever-improving emotional storytelling and artwork. Takehiko Inoue spent six years on this series, and the last volume, with its incredible pacing, form and expression shows how far his story and art have come.
In the final volume of Slam Dunk, one minute remains in the Shohoku-Sannoh game. Flipping through the pages of this volume, it becomes apparent how sparse the text is. Yet the emotions, efforts and actions of the players are heightened by this lack of text and dialogue. Inoue literally lets his art do the talking—and trust me—you will be holding your breath through many tense moments in this game. Time is prevalent in Shohoku and Sannoh’s basket-battle, and the seconds roar by.
Inoue employs contrasts to define the final moments of Shohoku and Sannoh’s game: movement vs stillness. Light and shadow. Sound and silence. All enhance the flavor of this match, creating an experience unlike any other. We the readers are spectators, cheering on Shohoku with Haruko in the stands. Yet we also find ourselves sharing the court with Akagi, Mitsui, Miyagi and Rukawa. We are the sweat dripping down the ball in Sakuragi’s hands.
It’s hard to believe something that started out as a way to win a girl’s heart has become the love of Sakuragi’s life. From the first to last panel of this volume, you will be on an emotional journey that few manga will ever be able to replicate. Inoue gives fans an amazing ending to a fantastic series. Though it’s especially painful to part with Sakuragi after 31 volumes, this phenom will forever be dribbling up and down the court in our hearts. We’ve learned dedication, passion, sacrifice and true friendship through Shohoku’s victories and losses on the court. As Sakuragi says, “It’s love.” Plain and simple.
Don't be a sports manga hater, and miss out on one of the best manga of all time! You can buy volumes of Slam Dunk right here!
by Cat Rechsteiner